Hornets’ Comeback Comes Up Short In South Final

Mansfield boys basketball
Mansfield’s Tommy Dooling goes up for a shot in the second half against Newton North in the D1 South Final. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com(
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
TAUNTON, Mass. – For the first 16 minutes of the 2019 Division 1 South Sectional Final, the second-seeded Mansfield Hornets couldn’t seem to do anything right.

Meanwhile, the fifth-seeded Tigers of Newton North played about as good as they could have hoped, combining eight made three-pointers with 14 Hornet turnovers for a 40-24 lead at halftime.

But there was no quit in the Hornets. Mansfield dominated the third quarter, making it a two-point contest — anyone’s game — with eight minutes left to go in the game.

The Tigers stood tall, though, never surrendering the lead and coming up with answer after answer to come away with a 74-64 victory, claiming the program’s first sectional title since 2006.

“I thought we did a good job disrupting them and taking stuff away,” said Newton North coach Paul Connolly. “We knew they’d have a run, and they had a huge run and came right at us. We responded, we made baskets when we needed them. We regained our poise (at the end).

”They are such a prolific offensive team, they really dissect people. We really worked on not allowing them to do what they do, to try and disrupt and take things away. They still scored 64 points. I told the guys at halftime Mansfield plays for 32 minutes. Even at the end, in the final seconds…they can score 10 points in their sleep.”

Mansfield looked like a completely different team in the third quarter, ramping up the aggressiveness and attacking the basket with a purpose. And on the defensive end, the Hornets played with a renewed sense of purpose that limited the Tigers to just seven points in the eight-minute stretch.

The surge mostly came over the final three minutes of the third. The defense limited Newton North to just three points over the first five minutes, but the Hornets were still trailing by double-digits, 45-34, with under three to go.

Sophomore Matt Boen (13 points, eight rebounds, five assists) hit a three-pointer and Damani Scott (17 points, six rebounds) came up with a steal that led to two free throws. The Hornets sandwiched a pair of stops around a free throw from Jack Mousette, and then junior Sam Stevens (14 points, four rebounds) drained a triple to make it a three-point game, down 46-43 with just under a minute to go.

Newton North added a free throw but Tommy Dooling (10 points) finished a contested layup at the buzzer to bring the Hornets — once down 19 points in the first half — within two, 47-45, entering the final quarter.

“Just play harder,” said Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan of what went into the third quarter turnaround. “I told the guys at halftime we’re going to come out and play hard defense, move the ball with our 50 action, we’re not calling quick hitters, we’re not having personnel on certain kids. And it worked. Hindsight, we probably should have done that from the start, but we’re a little more of a finesse team and like to get out in space and trick teams a little bit. They did such a good job preparing for us, we weren’t going to out-trick them tonight. We needed to be more aggressive.”

Unfortunately, the momentum didn’t carry over right away in the fourth quarter. The Hornets reverted to the bad habits of the first half, mainly turnovers.

Mansfield committed four turnovers in the opening two and a half minutes of the fourth quarter. After Newton North’s Kyle Ray-Canada (28 points) opened the quarter with the three, Mansfield missed a three and then was whistled for back-to-back offensive fouls after getting stops.

Khalil Lofton came up with a steal for an easy layup for the Tigers, the Hornets missed a triple, and Ray-Canada finished at the rim to cap a quick 7-0 spurt that gave Newton North breathing room up 54-45.

The Hornets once again made a push to get back in it. Dooling sank two free throws, Drew Rooney added another, and Boen, playing with an injured wrist, used a nice fake and lay-in for two to make it 56-52 with just over three minutes to go.

But Canada-Ray earned a trip to the line for two on back-to-back possessions, the Hornets had another turnover, and Lofton sank two more free throws to push the lead to 62-52 with two minutes left.

“It was everything going back to passive, reverting to what we were back in the first half instead of being aggressive,” Vaughan said. “Paul is one of the best [coaches] for a reason. There were times when we cut it to like four, where maybe in some other games, they made not have had an answer. But Paul had something drawn up, he had the right play, he had the right switch, and you can only do that when you’re at his level. He had answers for everything we did, hats off to how he coached and how his kids responded.”

Newton North had a terrific fourth quarter, taking advantage of some forced and some uncharacteristic Hornet turnovers. Mansfield gave the ball away nine times, and the Tigers hit nine field goals, include three from three-point range to race out to a 21-9 lead through eight minutes.

“They were very aggressive, they made us play 23-feet away from the hoop and they never really let us get comfortable,” Vaughan said. “It seemed like every pass we threw, every cut we made, every action we did, they were sitting there waiting for us. When the physicality is allowed that much, and we’re not matching it, it makes it a real grind it out first half.”

The Tigers’ three-point shooting only improved in the second quarter. Newton North connected on five more triples, including one from Ray-Canada with under a minute to go to push the lead to 40-21. Boen gave Mansfield some life with a late three and block on the final shot to make it 40-24 at halftime.

“I thought us playing from behind could create some nerves,” Vaughan said. “In the third quarter, we took the pressure off of thinking and just let them go out and play. I think it made the game so much easier for them, and you can only do that for so long and for so often. We almost were just kind of trying to play pick up and let the game freely go.

“I was happy with our young guys played. I thought Damani and Tommy played their hearts out, what more can you ask of them? In the end, I think the team that was a little more prepared, playing a little more hungry and with more effort won the game tonight.”

Mansfield boys basketball finishes the season at 22-5.

2018-2019 Hockomock Boys Basketball Preview

2018-2019 Hockomock Boys Basketball Preview

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2018-2019 Hockomock Boys Basketball Preview

Attleboro

2017-2018 Record: 13-10
2017-2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Mark Houle

Expectations are high for the Attleboro Bombardiers, who return all but one player from last year’s squad that won 13 games and qualified for the D1 South tournament. While the majority of the roster is made up of juniors (eight), the Bombardiers have a wealth of experience with almost all players having played at least one year, with a handful with two.

With experience comes options for veteran head coach Mark Houle. The Bombardiers expect to be able to play fast in transition but also slow down and execute in the half court. Attleboro boasts some of the top big men in the league and will look to use that to its advantage. Junior Qualeem Charles (6’5) was selected as a Hock All Star last year and will be a key piece on both sides of the ball with fellow big men Jason Weir, Lorenzo Wilson and Nolan Jaeger looking to factor in.

Junior Bryant Ciccio, also a Hockomock All Star last season, will be the quarterback of the offense from the point guard position. With two years of varsity experience already, Ciccio could be poised for a big season. Seniors Mason Houle and Kevin Velazquez both made big splashes last year and will be key pieces in the frontcourt this year. Velazquez provides high energy and can be a big threat from deep while Houle is a strong two-way player that will make plays on both ends of the court.

“We have several returning players with one or two years of varsity experience and will rely on them to be consistently working hard on both ends of the court,” said Mark Houle. “Our strength will be a strong inside game on offense…[and] our guard play will have multiple players able to handle pressure, score and contribute.”

Canton

2017-2018 Record: 16-5
2017-2018 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round
Coach: Ryan Gordy

The Bulldogs are coming off one of their best seasons in recent memory. This season, the Bulldogs will be looking to improve each day and adjust to a new style of play that fits the personnel best.

While three starters are gone, one starter that is back is Devin Foster, a Hockomock League All Star and HockomockSports.com First Team selection a year ago. Foster is a dynamic player that can be a nightmare for opposing defenses trying to stop him. He can shoot the three and really improved on his ability to finish around the rim last year.

Senior Paul Corcoran and junior Kyle Fitzgerald both had starts last season and head coach Ryan Gordy is looking for both players, along with versatile guard Ryan Lentol, to take a big step on the court this season. Corcoran is a strong defender, Fitzgerald will handle the point, and Lentol will do a little bit of everything for the Dogs. All three have a good amount of varsity experience and will be relied upon to be leaders on the court.

“Our culture in our foundation, and our veteran leadership sets the tone for the program,” Gordy said. “If we stay growth oriented this could be a fun season, players are committed to continuous improvement and that’s a pleasure to coach.”

Foxboro

2017-2018 Record: 19-5
2017-2018 Finish: Reached D2 South Quarterfinals
Coach: Jon Gibbs

Foxboro had a memorable 2018 season, earning 19 wins and sharing the Davenport division title with Canton. But with four of the five starters from that team gone, the 2019 Warriors will try to create their own identity while trying to replicate the success.

The one starter back is junior Brandon Borde (11.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.7 apg) and his two years of experience on varsity will be vital as role players switch to starters and new role players emerge. Borde is a talented guard that can hurt teams in a variety of ways but his strength allows him to finish around the rim in tough situations.

Senior Anthony Mollica had a bit of a coming out party during the end of last season, emerging as an offensive threat for the Warriors. Head coach Jon Gibbs expects more of that throughout this season and will be looking for the likes of Will Morrison, Liam Devlin, Ryan Hughes, and Kevin Gallagher — all players with varsity experience, to step up this year. While Foxboro will likely rely on its defense again this year, three-point shooting should be a strength on the offensive side.

“Right now the focus is on getting better each day,” Gibbs said. “Practices have been competitive. Guys are fighting hard to carve out a role for themselves by earning the trust of their teammates and coaches. If we can continue to defend and rebound at a high level, we have a chance to be very successful.”

Franklin

2017-2018 Record: 23-4
2017-2018 Finish: Reached D1 State Final
Coach: CJ Neely

The Panthers have reached the D1 State Final each of the past two seasons and it looks like they have the tools to try and make a third straight appearance. Franklin brings back two of the top players in the Hockomock League in senior Jalen Samuels and junior Chris Edgehill.

Both Samuels (13.1 ppg, 8.7 rpg) and Edgehill (17.1 ppg, 3.5 apg) have a wealth of varsity experience that the Panthers will rely on as others battle for minutes in the rotation. Edgehill is one of the most dangerous guards offensively and can score in a variety of ways while Samuels can present a matchup problem for most teams. Will Harvey also has varsity experience and will likely see an increased role in the 2018-2019 season.

The rest of the rotation is up for grabs but there is a lot of choices for head coach CJ Neely, who noted there is a strong amount of depth and balance on this year’s squad. Unsurprisingly, Franklin will be focused on causing problems on the defensive side of the ball. The Panthers have been known as a gritty defensive squad and they are looking to continue that tradition this year. Offensively, Neely is hoping unselfishness and outside shooting will help replicate the success of previous seasons.

“It will be a season long battle for minutes and guys will have to earn our trust through defensive intensity and unselfish play on offense,” Neely said. “Our goal is to focus on the process of competing hard and improving each day and the results will reflect our daily effort and attitude.”

King Philip

2017-2018 Record: 4-16
2017-2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Dave DeStefano

First-year head coach Dave DeStefano is hoping hard work in the offseason will translate into success on the court this year for the King Philip Warriors. DeStefano is the Warriors fifth head coach in the last eight seasons but his familiarity with the Hockomock League (former JV coach at Foxboro) should give him a boost right away.

While the Warriors had only four wins last year, half of their 16 losses came by six points or less, including to D2 State Champions Tech Boston (74-71) and division foes Attleboro and Taunton. King Philip is hoping it can be on the right side of those contests this season. Bruce Santillus and Timmy Nault are the two returning starters from last year, and both showed they are capable of taking over games on the offensive end. Santillus is a versatile player that can score in many ways and is tough in one-on-one matchups. Nault provides a lot of energy on both ends and can give the team a spark when needed.

DeStefano is looking for seniors Tyler Nault, Ian Khung, and Michael O’Brien to build on their minutes from last year and have increased roles for 2018-2019. Junior Andrew McKinney showed a lot of promise last year and could be a big contributor for the Warriors this year. Senior Terry Jacobs-Baston gives KP a nice post presence along with junior Tommy Donahue (6’5) and senior Sam Sesay (6’2). Juniors Alex Fritz, Chris Roy, and Adam Nicastro will all be in the mix for minutes as well.

“The boys have really worked hard this offseason,” DeStefano said. “The practices have been really competitive and physical. For us to be successful we will need to make a big commit on the defensive end of the floor. We want to make our opponents uncomfortable and focus on working together to get stops.”

Mansfield

2017-2018 Record: 27-2
2017-2018 Finish: D1 State Champions
Coach: Mike Vaughan

While the D1 State Championship is in the rearview mirror, expectations are still sky high for Mansfield, who has won six straight Hock Kelley-Rex titles, tying a streak from OA in the 1980s for the longest title run. With a handful of players back and a strong mix of new faces Mansfield will be aiming for its seventh straight.

The Hornets will rely on their most experienced players early on with Damani Scott, Tommy Dooling, and Khristian Conner back. All three have starting experience, and beyond that, a wealth of varsity minutes in the regular season and postseason. Scott had a terrific playoff run last year and could be one of the top players in the Hock this year. Dooling is a talented guard that can hurt teams from deep while Conner can score from all over the floor.

Beyond that trio, there are a handful of new faces trying to establish time in the lineup and rotation. Junior Sam Stevens and sophomores Matt Boen and TJ Guy are top candidates to find time in the rotation. Stevens and Guy both have good size and will give the Hornets a presence in the post while Boen is a crafty guard that will likely contribute offensively right away. Expect Makhi Baskin, Jack Mousette, and Drew Rooney to be in the mix as well.

“We’re looking forward to getting the season started with new faces,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “We’ll have our early challenges getting the new faces up to speed with the varsity level of play, but it’s a talented group, they are working hard, and they are getting better each day. It should be an exciting year as the league looks to be super competitive as always.”

Milford

2017-2018 Record: 13-10
2017-2018 Finish: Reached D2 Central Semifinal
Coach: Paul Seaver

While the Hawks have some experience back this year, it will be key for the new faces to get up to speed as Milford looks to compete for a Davenport division title. Seniors Brendan White, Brendon Sailer, and Steve Sutherland are all back after either starting or playing a lot of minutes last season and will be relied upon, especially early, to guide the Hawks through a difficult schedule.

White was Milford’s leading scorer last season with 14 points per game in the regular season so he will be a key piece for the Hawks again this year. Sailer is a good ball handler and will handle point guard duties. He’s a strong defender and can distribute the ball well, but he is also able to get to the rim or shoot from deep. Sutherland provides the Hawks with an experienced presence in the post but can step out and hit shots as well.

Junior Colby Pires is coming off a successful season on the gridiron and will see a lot of minutes on the court and senior Danny Corsini can provide a spark on the offensive end with his shooting. Sophomore Dom Schofield stands at 6’5 so he can be a matchup problem for some teams in the league while classmate Jordan Darling can do a little bit of everything and could have a breakout year for the Scarlet Hawks.

“Our goal is to simply get better with each passing day,” said Milford head coach Paul Seaver. “We have a lot of newcomers this season and are facing one of our toughest schedules in years. Our goal is to build chemistry and work towards qualifying for the state tournament for a fourth consecutive season.”

North Attleboro

2017-2018 Record: 9-11
2017-2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Sean Mulkerrins

After just missing out on the postseason a year ago, North Attleboro is hoping a strong senior class can help the Rocketeers return to the postseason and compete for a Davenport division title. Big Red boasts nine seniors, including three starters and a handful of guys that played plenty of minutes a year ago.

Leading scoring Josh Montague (13.7 points per game) is back and will be one of the top guards in the Hock. He plays well on both ends of the court but really came into his own as a scorer as the season progressed last year. Senior Jacob Petersen, standing at 6’6, will be one of the toughest matchups in the league and his ability to play as a true post player gives North an advantage over other teams. He is also a force on defense that can prevent easy buckets in the paint. Senior Nate Gonsalves improved throughout last year and could be poised for a breakout season for Big Red.

Senior Evan Rosenberg will likely be tasked with guarding some of the top players in the league because of his strong defensive play. Seniors Adam Falcone, Jonathan James, Joe Milosh and Matt Seavey all played last year and that experience will be key as they factor into the rotation again this year. Junior Ethan Friberg got valuable minutes last year and can score in a variety of ways while also giving Big Red size at 6’4. Sophomore George Ladd will be making his varsity debut but is expected to provide North with a spark on offense.

“We are extremely excited about the 2018-2019 season,” said North Attleboro head coach Sean Mulkerrins. “Led by our nine seniors, we hope we can build off of last year’s momentum. We have an extremely intelligent group of players that is coachable, hardworking, and determined. We believe our cohesiveness and depth will allow us to be successful.”

Oliver Ames

2017-2018 Record: 8-13
2017-2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Don Byron

The Tigers found themselves in an unfamiliar place at the end of last year – on the outside looking in for the postseason. This year, Oliver Ames is hoping to blend a mix of returners, role players, and new faces — both from JV and transfers — into a competitive group that will look to begin a new postseason streak.

A major challenge will be replacing Hockomock League All Star and HockomockSports.com First Team selection Jack Spillane, who led the Hock in scoring during the regular season with 22.3 points per game. The Tigers will aim to have a much more balanced approach this season players that can contribute at each position. It will begin with returning starters Ethan Eckstrom and Jake Erlich, both seniors. Both Eckstrom and Erlich will spend the majority of their time in or around the paint and will be key defensive pieces as well. Sean O’Brien, who mostly came off the bench but was one of the team leaders in minutes, is a high-energy player that contributes on both ends of the court.

Senior Harry DeChellis was slated to be a big contributor for the Tigers last year before suffering a season ending injury so OA is hoping he will step right in and be a leader. Jay Spillane and Ryan Burkett both had successful seasons on JV a year ago and will factor in the rotation while transfers Amari Brown, a sophomore guard, and Evan Craig, a junior forward, both will be impact players right away.

“We should be a lot more balanced on offense, it should spread around,” said Oliver Ames head coach Don Byron. “It’s one of those teams where we have the ability to score at all positions, as well as the guys off the bench. It might change each night but we have a lot of guys that are capable of contributing.”

Sharon

2017-2018 Record: 4-16
2017-2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Andrew Ferguson

The Eagles are aiming to improve on both ends of the court this year and are looking to compete for the Davenport title and a trip to the state tournament. After missing out on the playoffs each of the last two seasons, the Eagles are looking to ride a mix of experienced players to try and get back to the postseason.

Sharon will rely heavily on its three senior captains: Aaron Strong, Ben Kaplan, and Alex Kaufmann. Strong is a versatile guard that can be a pest on the defensive end of the court; Kaplan makes a lot of things happen on both ends and was having a strong season as a junior before seeing it cut short to injury; and Kaufmann is in his third year on varsity and is capable of having big scoring games any given night.

Athleticism will be something the Eagles rely on this year on both sides of the ball. Beyond the three senior captains, juniors Andrew Burton, Aidan Kane, and Alec Filipkowski all saw varsity minutes and should be factors as their roles increase this season. Juniors Cameron Baker and Caleb Gayle will also factor into the rotation in the frontcourt.

“This is a very tight knit, energized group and they are continually pushing each other to get better every day,” said Sharon head coach Andrew Ferguson. “We have a good mix of experience and youth to provide depth at multiple positions. We are replacing a lot of offense from last year and have a lot of players vying for those opportunities.”

Stoughton

2017-2018 Record: 6-14
2017-2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: John Gallivan

The Black Knights are hoping a balanced attack on offense and a commitment to defense will result in 10 wins and a trip to the state tournament. Stoughton has five players back with varsity experience so the Knights will lean on those players early as head coach John Gallivan tries to fit a handful of new faces from JV and outside the program into the rotation.

Senior captains Zak Paquette, Josh Cocchi, and Kevin Dixon will be key not only for their contributions on the court but for their leadership as well. They are all experienced players that Gallivan will lean on as he figures out what the best rotations will be.

Senior Ajahn Rue is another returnee and brings a lot of talent to the point guard position while junior Myles Grigalunas-Powell got his feet wet on varsity a year ago and could see an increased role in the 2018-2019 season. After those five, Gallivan is looking for some new faces to step up and establish themselves as go-to options for the Black Knights.

“We are hoping to have more of a balanced attack on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor than we have had in the past,” Gallivan said.

taunton

2017-2018 Record: 12-11
2017-2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Charlie Dacey

This year’s version of the Taunton Tigers will be relying on tempo to try and run past the competition in the Hockomock League. Taunton boasts speed throughout the lineup and is hoping that it can use that — offensively and defensively — to its advantage this year. But if necessary, the Tigers can also slow it down and execute in the half court.

Senior guard John Martins and junior forward Dante Law are returning seniors from a season ago and both are quick players that bring experience to a team that is looking to use its speed to emphasize its open court skills. Martins is a steady player that can do a lot of things on both ends of the court and Law is looking to take the next step forward after some strong outings as a sophomore.

Senior Lou Vendrell is back and had a lot of offensive skill that the Tigers will need, especially his outside shot. Similar to Law, junior Naz Kenion had some breakout moments a year ago and Taunton will be looking for more production out of him this season. Prince Brown brings a year of varsity experience back and can provide an offensive spark with his shooting. Senior Mike Quinn rounds out the backcourt while Wesner Charles and Tyler Stewart provide the Tigers with size down low.

“Tempo will be the key this year,” said longtime Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey. “The roster has some depth and there is speed at every position.”

Foxboro Holds On For Frantic Win At Fenway Park

Foxboro football
Foxboro’s Liam Foley carries the ball while being tackled by Mansfield’s TJ Guy (top) and Chris Graham (right). (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
BOSTON, Mass. – A lot has happened over the last 80-plus years in the annual clash between Mansfield and Foxboro football.

But the storied rivalry between the Hornets and Warriors has never had a game like Tuesday night’s contest at Fenway Park.

Foxboro outlasted Mansfield, 35-33, in triple overtime on the historic field inside Fenway Park — the first overtime game in series history.

“It doesn’t get much better than this,” said longtime Foxboro head coach Jack Martinelli. “Our kids going in as the underdog, they played harder than I’ve ever seen them play and I’m proud of them all.

“There were a lot of things at stake for us. We struggled a bit in the first half of the year, and I saw a vast improvement the second half of the year. The kids won four of their last five games so I’m pretty pleased for the kids. Two great teams, a great rivalry, we have the utmost respect for Coach Redding and his kids. It was a battle of wills I guess and we outlasted so I’m pretty happy.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

After being limited to six points through the first three quarters, Foxboro scored four times between the fourth quarter and three overtime periods.

On the flip side, Mansfield orchestrated a game-tying drive over the final 2:32, driving 63 yards before tying the game with just two seconds left.

“[Foxboro] played hard, it was a great game,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “We told the Fenway people we have a great rivalry, we play great football, we’re going to bring a great crowd and we did all of it. We had two very good teams battle to the end, it was like a three hour game, and we had a great crowd in the cold, They made one more play. It was a classic and a great effort by both teams.”

After the teams remained tied through two overtime periods, Foxboro was able to make one final stop to secure the win. The Warriors started on offense in the third overtime and found the end zone on second down. Senior quarterback Liam Foley (10-for-17, 165 yards, three touchdowns) hit classmate Mike Luong in the flat for a 9-yard touchdown. Foley rolled right then threw back across his body to an open Rob Fay for the two point conversion and a 35-27 lead.

Mansfield punched it in on third down on a carry from sophomore Cincere Gill (12 carries, 104 yards) from three yards out to make it 35-33. Gill dove into the pylon on the two-point attempt but Mansfield was called for holding and had to attempt the two-point conversion from the 13-yard line.

Junior quarterback Jack Mousette (11-for-20, 82 yards, one touchdown) nearly connected with a receiver but a nice tackle forced the pass incomplete and Foxboro held on for the win.

In the first overtime, Foley dodged some pressure to connect with Brian Derba for a 10-yard touchdown on third down but the two-point rush failed. Mansfield tied the game on its first play with Aidan Sacco (10 carries, 86 yards) using a QB option to keep it himself for a 10-yard score. After a delay of game, Mansfield’s two-point attempt from the 8-yard line was shut down.

Foxboro had a chance to win it in the second overtime, but similar to Mansfield in the opening extra period, the defense came up big. Mansfield elected to pass on a 23-yard field goal (with starting kicker Michael DeBolt out hurt) and went for it on 4th and goal from the 6. Mousette hit Danny Rapoza right at the 1-yard line but Foxboro’s Shayne Kerrigan made a terrific leaping tackle to prevent the ball from crossing the goal line.

Foxboro ran it twice before trotting its field goal unit out on third down for a 23-yard attempt. But Russell Neale’s attempt at a walk-off win at Fenway was denied by sophomore TJ Guy, who jumped high into the air and blocked the kick, leading to the third OT where Foxboro ended up winning.

“I couldn’t have written a script any better for the seniors,” Martinelli said. “They were resilient, they hung tough. Even when it looked like momentum had swung a little bit, they came up and made some plays for us. I couldn’t be prouder of a bunch of kids than what I saw tonight.

“Couldn’t be happier for the kids to go out this way.”

Before the teams got to overtime, Foxboro nearly had the game won in regulation. The Warriors stopped Mansfield inside the red zone (with the Hornet drive hampered by a bad snap and Pat Stapleton coming up with a big hit on fourth down) and had the chance to kill the block. Facing a 4th and inches from their own 40 yard line, Foley went back and tried to hand the ball off to each of his backs but instead pulled it back in for a bootleg run to the let side and converted.

Three plays later, on a third and 9 play from the 43 yard line, Kerrigan came in motion and Foley faked the handoff on the jet sweep. The senior quarterback looked back to his right to get the defense to move in that direction and turned back to his left and lofted a pass to Kerrigan out on the sideline on a wheel route. Kerrigan did the rest, racing to a 57-yard score and a 21-13 lead with 2:32 to play.

“I never could have imagined a game like that,” Foley said after being named MVP for the game. “We knew coming in we were playing a really good team in Mansfield so this is unbelievable. We knew we had to play the best we could and I think everybody gave everything they could tonight.”

With just one timeout, Mansfield responded and marched 63 yards to tie the game. Joe Plath, who took over tailback duties with Vinnie Holmes, Michael DeBolt, and Nick Marciano sidelined and was named Hornet MVP, had an eight yard run to convert an early 4th and two from the Mansfield 45-yard line, and four plays later, with the Hornets staring at 4th and 7, Mousette used his legs to get 16 yards and a first.

Another run from Plath on third down (3rd and 1 from the 19) got Mansfield inside the red zone with under 30 seconds to play. On third and goal from the 5 yard line, Mousette lofted one to Khristian Conner on the right side and Conner made a terrific catch while going to the ground for the touchdown.

Mansfield went back to the ground for the two-point conversion with Gill taking the sweep left and cutting up the middle to tie the game 21-21 with just two seconds left.

The Hornets took a 6-0 lead in the first half on a five-yard plunge from Plath, but had two turnovers in the opening frame to stop them from padding the lead. Hunter Williams forced an errant throw that Martin McIlroy hauled in for an interception and Anton George fell on a loose ball after a bad handoff exchange. Mike Sheehan had a fumble recovery in the second half for Foxboro.

“Way too many turnovers for us,” Redding said. “It probably should have been 21-0 at half but it’s only 6-0 and [Foxboro] has a game, which is what they wanted. They started believing a little bit and we couldn’t shake them. We kept answering but we just let them hang around. And when a call doesn’t go your way, it changes the game and we had a lot them not go our away.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Foxboro tied the contest 6-6 on its opening drive of the second half. Foley orchestrated a nine-play, 78 yard drive that included a 40-yard pass and (terrific leaping) catch from Fay. Luong capped it with a 1-yard score.

The game was tied for just 21 seconds though. On the first play of Mansfield’s ensuing drive, Sacco used a QB option to keep the ball and darted up the middle for a 68-yard score and a 13-6 lead after Gill hit the extra point.

The Warriors pulled ahead early in the fourth quarter. Foxboro’s pass was incomplete on 4th and 4 from the six but Mansfield was whistled for offside, and then two straight unsportsmanlike conduct calls after that. Foxboro capitalized with Luong plunging in from 2 yards out. Luong also got the two-point conversion, albeit a little help from the offensive line with a big push after the Hornets had the original stop, to give Foxboro a 14-13 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Foxboro football finishes the season 5-6 while Mansfield closes out the 2018 campaign with a 8-3 record.

Tuesday’s Schedule & Scoreboard – 11/20/18

Today’s game is listed below.

Football
Foxboro, 35 @ Mansfield, 33 (@ Fenway Park) – Final (3 OT)
1st Quarter: No scoring.
2nd Quarter: (M) Joe Plath 5-yard run, XP no good.
3rd Quarter: (F) Mike Luong 1-yard run, XP no good; (M) Aidan Sacco 68-yard run, Cincere Gill XP good.
4th Quarter: (F) M. Luong 2-yard run, M. Luong 2-point conversion; (F) Liam Foley 57-yard pass to Shayne Kerrigan, Russ Neale XP good; (M) Jack Mousette 5-yard pass to Khristian Conner, C. Gill two-point conversion.
First OT: (F) L. Foley 10-yard pass to Brian Derba, 2-point conversion failed; (M) A. Sacco 10-yard run, 2-point conversion failed.
Second OT: No scoring.
Third OT: (F) L. Foley 9-yard pass to M. Luong, L. Foley pass to Rob Fay 2-point conversion; (M) C. Gill 3-yard run, 2-point conversion failed.

Hornets Ride Defense, Ground Game to Beat Franklin

Mansfield football
Mansfield junior Vinnie Holmes accounted for 104 yards of offense and a touchdown, as well as double-digit tackles, as Mansfield beat Franklin at Alumni Field. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


MANSFIELD, Mass. – Mansfield started Friday night’s league-opener at Alumni Field with back-up quarterback Jack Mousette under center. He lasted two series before an injury, following a 38-yard run, sent him to the sidelines for the rest of the night. With starter Damani Scott unavailable and Mousette on the bench with his arm wrapped in ice, the Hornets turned to senior Aidan Sacco to be the emergency QB.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Sacco only threw five times in the game, but he completed three of those passes for 42 yards and the Mansfield defense clamped down, forcing three turnovers in the second half and shutting Franklin out until the final two minutes of a 24-6 victory.

“It’s a gutsy win,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “Jack comes in and did a nice job running the ball but the danger doing that is your QB is going to run and get hit and he just landed funny. Aidan Sacco came in…he’s never played quarterback in his life and he leads us to a win against a good football team, so we’ll take it.”

Franklin started the season 2-0 for the first time since 2012 and was looking for its first win against Mansfield since its unbeaten 2009 season. The Panthers moved the ball well, but failed to finish drives, twice reaching the red zone but both times coming away with no points.

“It was one of those night where try as we may, we did everything wrong that we could’ve from bad special teams snap, we dropped two touchdowns, every time they put the ball on the ground they got it back” Franklin coach Eian Bain said. “I even think we executed, we just didn’t finish the big plays.”

The Panthers drove all the way to the Mansfield 15-yard-line on their opening possession. Junior Thomas Gasbarro completed two of his three passes, both to Sean Leonard (six catches, 82 yards), but a draw play at the 19 lost six yards and eventually his keeper on fourth and 15 only gained nine to end the drive.

Mansfield made quick work of an 85-yard drive, needing only four plays, to take the lead, but in the process lost its starting quarterback. After Nick Marciano broke free on the right side for a 28-yard gain out to the 43, Mousette raced for 38 yards down to the Franklin 19 but was forced to leave the game with a shoulder injury. Two plays later, Sacco went up the middle for a 14-yard score.

Sacco also fielded punts and his 29-yard return gave the Hornets the ball back at the Franklin 41. Junior Vinnie Holmes (11 carries, 65 yards) gained 27 yards on two carries to get the ball all the way to the Panthers 12, but a fumble on the next hand-off forced Sacco to retreat 18 yards. Two plays later, Michael DeBolt, who was also 3-for-3 on extra points, booted a 35-yard kick for a 10-0 lead.

Franklin’s offense went right back to work on its next possession. Senior Nick Gordon (10-23, 174 yards) was the new quarterback and he found Leonard twice in a row for 43 yards down to the Mansfield 17. On third and seven from the 14, Gordon scrambled and his pass to Ryan Driscoll in the back of the end zone was inches over the receiver’s head. The Panthers settled for a field goal attempt but Parker Chevrant’s kick was wide right from 30 yards.

Gasbarro intercepted a Sacco pass to end the next Hornets drive, but he slipped on the return and couldn’t gain extra yards after the turnover. Franklin was forced to punt from its own 32, but a high snap rushed the play and it was sliced out of bounds just six yards downfield.

Mansfield made the great starting field position count to add a score before the break. After an incomplete pass, Sacco hit Holmes in the flat for a 28-yard gain. Sacco was unable to handle the next shotgun snap but Holmes was able to scoop the loose ball and gain eight yards. On the next play, he bulldozed for two more and a three-score lead.

Redding said of the late touchdown to end the first half, “That was big. You outplay them but it’s only 10 and you give them the ball to start the half and they score and it’s a whole different game. Then we thought, if we can win the third quarter, which it ended up 0-0, as long as we didn’t let them get back to two scores.”

The third quarter was marred by turnovers by both teams. Gordon was intercepted by Cincere Gill and then sacked by Chris Copponi and Daenin Walker to end a possession. Austin Jordan recovered a Mansfield fumble to get it back for the Panthers but only three plays later the Panthers put the ball on the ground and Jack Barry recovered.

“We do a pretty good regrouping, but I think we pressed a little on the first drive coming out,” said Bain. “Then we moved the ball again and we moved the ball again, but we all took turns tonight, coaches included, making the little mistakes. When you play the best, you can’t play anything but your best and we weren’t at our best tonight.”

Late in the fourth quarter, Walker forced another fumble that was recovered by Copponi at midfield. Gill (eight carries, 95 yards) gained four yards on first down and then burst through the right side of the line and raced 46 yards for the touchdown that sealed the win.

The Panthers didn’t give up and responded in just four plays. Gordon hit Driscoll on a go route down the near sideline that made sure there wouldn’t be a shutout. The two-point conversion attempt fell incomplete.

Mansfield came away with a win, but the Hornets will now head into a showdown with two-time defending league champion King Philip with a third-string quarterback at the helm. According to Redding, the Hornets will be relying even more on their defense to come through.

“We had to get this one,” Redding admitted. “We lose this with a quarterback going down, now we’re fighting a losing battle. Now, Aidan’s got some confidence playing in a game. Our guys will be ready for next Friday. They’ve had our number the last few years and we’ll be ready to play.”

Mansfield (2-1, 1-0) will host King Philip at Alumni Field on Friday night, while Franklin (2-1, 0-1) will try to bounce back right away when Oliver Ames visits Pisini Field.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Football: 2018 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

2018 Kelley-Rex Football Preview
Mansfield quarterback Damani Scott (6) will try to help the Hornets challenge for the Kelley-Rex title this season. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2018 Kelley-Rex Football Preview

Attleboro

2017 Record: 5-6
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Mike Strachan

Key/Returning Players: Justin Cote, Sr., RB/OLB; Nick Evans, Sr., OT/DE; Eddie Porreca, Sr., DT; Alex Rodriguez, Sr., RB; Josh Therrien, Sr., WR/FS; Desmond Woodson, Sr., OLB; Qualeem Charles, Jr., OT/DT; Isaac Gudiel, Jr., OG/LB; Nolan Jaeger, Jr., WR/CB; Jason Weir, Jr., QB/DE; Michael Strachan, So., LB/TE

Outlook:
Injuries hampered Attleboro right from the start of the 2017 season, but the 2018 Bombardiers are healthy and hoping for a big turnaround this fall to compete with the top teams in the Kelley-Rex division and make a return to the postseason.

The graduation of quarterback Cam Furtado is a significant loss on offense, but the Bombardiers will hand the ball to junior Jason Weir, who has a big arm and a lot of potential at the QB position. Size and strength won’t be a problem for Weir, who played defensive end as a sophomore. Seniors Justin Cote and Alex Rodriguez will be the primary backs for Attleboro this year and give the Bombardiers dynamic weapons out of the backfield. The offensive line is bolstered by 6-foot-6, 290-pound junior Qualeem Charles and 6-foot-3, 265-pound senior Nick Evans. At 6-foot-3, junior Nolan Jaeger will be a weapon at receiver along with senior Josh Therrien and sophomore tight end Michael Strachan.

Evans battled injuries at the start of last season, but he is one of the top defensive linemen in the league and is drawing Div. I college offers. Attleboro will be a tough team to run against this season with Evans on the end and Charles (who is also getting DI looks) and 6-foot-3, 365-pound senior Eddie Porreca on the inside. Strachan and junior Isaac Gudiel will be starting at inside linebacker, while senior Desmond Woodson will be starting on the outside. Therrien is capable of making plays downfield at his free safety position and will be the leader of the secondary.

“I am looking forward to the 2018 season,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “We have a strong senior class and we have strong leadership on our football team. Our team worked out hard in the off-season and I am looking forward to that hard work paying off this season.”

Franklin

2017 Record: 3-8
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Eian Bain

Key/Returning Players: Ryan Driscoll, Sr., WR/DB; Sean Leonard, Sr., TE; Evan Wertz, Jr., LB; Sean Hofferty, Sr., RB; Liam Arsenault, Sr., OL/DL; Nick Gordon, Sr., QB/DB; Riley Downing, Sr., OL/DL; Will Davis, Sr., WR; Jack Jarosz, Sr., OL/DL; Jack Nally, Jr., WR; Jake Davis, Jr., WR/DB; Dom Natale, Jr., OL/DL; Thomas Gasbarro, Jr., QB/DB; Nolan McLaney, Sr., DB;

Outlook:
Third-year head coach Eian Bain is optimistic about the 2018 season, and the long list of players returning with plenty of experience is a big reason why. The Panthers have over a dozen players back that started or saw significant time on offense and the same goes for the defense, include a very seasoned secondary.

Franklin must replace three-year starter Jake Noviello at quarterback but Bain is confident that a healthy competition between senior Nick Gordon and junior Thomas Gasbarro will result in a strong option starting under center for the opening week. While Franklin has to replace its quarterback, they return a ton of skill players on offense including senior tight end Sean Leonard, who hauled in a league-best eight touchdown passes last season. Ryan Driscoll (five touchdowns), Jack Nally, Will Davis, and Jake Davis will fill out the receiving corps while Sean Hofferty and Owen Palmieri man the backfield. Seniors Riley Downing and Liam Arsenault are experienced and will anchor the offensive line.

Junior Evan Wertz will be a key piece in the middle of the Panthers’ defense after having a breakout campaign last year with nearly 100 tackles from his linebacker spot. Senior Spencer Briggs and sophomore Alex Honor will also see time at linebacker while Downing is joined by Jack Jarosz, Dom Natale, and Keenan Bassma on the defensive line. The Panthers boast a seasoned secondary with Nolan McLaney and Driscoll both back, along with Palmieri, Jake Davis, and both Gasbarro and Gordon.

“We have experience on both sides of the ball,” Bain said. “It is a cohesive group that has been working hard together for our first two years and they are eager to the turn the corner with our program.”

King Philip

2017 Record: 12-0
2017 Finish: MIAA D1A State Champions
Coach: Brian Lee

Key/Returning Players: Jack Webster, Sr., FB/LB; Aidan Bender, Sr., RB/DB; Max Armour, Sr., LB; Luke D’Amico, Sr., DB; Terrell Jacobs Baston, Sr., OL/DL; Ryan Halliday, Jr., RB; Josh Fice, Sr., OL/DL; Nolan Gunning, Jr., OL/DL; David Morganelli, Sr., WR;

Outlook:
The target on King Philip’s back is bigger than ever as the Warriors pulled off a second straight undefeated season and another state championship.

So how will head coach Brian Lee get this year’s team to focus on 2018 and not the past two seasons?

“The work and preparation have been the same but now it’s up to this season class to leave their legacy,” Lee said. “The previous two classes had their moments, now it’s up to these seniors to make their own moment. This team will go as far as these seniors lead them.”

The seniors will have plenty of opportunities to make their mark because King Philip doesn’t have a returning starter on offense. The Warriors need to replace quarterback Brendan Lydon, who didn’t lose a game as a starter. Junior Robbie Jarest looks poised to take over under center this season. While it isn’t a lot of experience, Jarest took over in the second half of the state final after Lydon got hurt and helped the Warriors finish off Lincoln-Sudbury. The toughest shoes to fill will be those of Shane Frommer, who will go down as one of the best players in KP history.

Junior Ryan Halliday will be the feature back while Aidan Bender and Sam Callanan will be in the mix as well. Jack Webster and Jack Collentro will be keys to the offense from the fullback position. Senior Terrell Jacobs Bastons has some experience on both sides of the ball and will likely start at guard while classmate Josh Fice will fill in the other guard spot. Junior Nolan Gunning is likely to get a starting spot as well, either at center or tackle.

Defense has been a staple for the Warriors throughout their successful run over the last couple of years, and that’s what KP will count on again this season. The strength will come from the linebackers with Webster back in an outside spot and Max Armour returning in the middle. Jacobs Bastons will be a big presence in the middle of the defensive line while the secondary will have familiar faces back in Aidan Bender, Timmy Nault, and safety Luke D’Amico.

And as we saw in the state final, having a reliable kicker is priceless. Cole Baker, who booted the winning field goal in the final, is back for his third year. Not only will he be a big help on offense, his kickoffs will be a weapon for the defense.

Mansfield

2017 Record: 8-3
2017 Finish: Reached D1A South Quarterfinal
Coach: Michael Redding

Key/Returning Players: Key/Returning Players: Damani Scott, Sr., QB/FS; Michael DeBolt, Jr., WR/DB/K; Vinnie Holmes, Jr., RB/LB; Makhi Baskin, Jr., RB/DB; Nick Marciano, Jr., RB/DB; Aidan Sacco, Sr., RB/DB; Philip Dinov, Sr., RB/LB; Chris Copponi, Sr., RB/LB; Chris Graham, Jr., OL/DL; Jason Comeau, Jr., OL/DE; Khristian Conner, Sr., WR/DB; Daenin Walker, Sr., OL/DL

Outlook:
Mansfield has finished second in the Kelley-Rex in each of the past three seasons and the Hornets will be counting on experience under center and depth at the skill positions to end King Philip’s two-year reign atop the division and return to the top of the league standings for the first time since 2013.

Senior Damani Scott will be the starter at quarterback for the second straight season and he will be backed up by the capable Jack Mousette, giving the Hornets plenty of experience and reliability from their signal caller. Scott will also have a ton of weapons to call on this year with a skill position group that head coach Mike Redding calls one of the best that Mansfield has had in a while. Khristian Conner and Aidan Sacco will be weapons in the passing game while junior Vinnie Holmes is back in the backfield. Juniors Makhi Baskin, Michael DeBolt (who was also an outstanding kicker last year), and Nick Marciano will provide depth in the slot/running back positions. Senior Daenin Walker and junior Jason Comeau will add experience to the offensive line.

Defensively, Holmes will return to the linebacking corps after setting a program record for tackles in a season as a sophomore. Seniors Chris Copponi and Philip Dinov also return and can play as linebackers or as defensive ends depending on matchups. The secondary will be strong for the Hornets this year with Conner and Sacco at the corners and Marciano and Baskin at the safety positions. The only new additions on the defense are Anthony Capece at noseguard and junior Joe Plath at linebacker.

Redding said, “We have an experienced, athletic, aggressive defense that should be tough to score on and we’re young on offense, but have a ton of depth and talent at skill positions. Just need to gain some experience up front with our new guys on OL and DL.”

Oliver Ames

2017 Record: 6-5
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Mike Holland

Key/Returning Players: Cam Perron, Jr., QB; Dean Pacini, Sr., OL/LB; Darnele Ryan, Sr., LB; Sam Stevens, Jr., DB; Shane Kilkelly, Jr., WR; Nathan Cabral, Jr., RB; Shane Murphy, Sr., OL/LB; Billy Tat, Sr., OL/DL; Luke Thibeault, Sr., OL/DL; Garrett Wood, Sr., OL/DL;

Outlook:
The 2018 version of the Oliver Ames Tigers have already had to make an audible after star running back Anthony Berksza suffered a season-ending injury over summer. Berksza had a breakout year last season, rushing for over 1,100 yards and finished with 16 total touchdowns, 15 of those rushing.

With Berksza out, Oliver Ames will rely heavily on the rest of its returning starters to carry the load. Junior Cam Perron returns under center after taking over the starting job during the regular season last year. While Perron looks to find some of his options, he has an offensive line protecting him that has some experience but will be looking to form cohesiveness throughout the year. Dean Pacini, Shane Murphy, Billy Tat, Luke Thibeault, and Garrett Wood all return with experience playing on the line. One challenge will be finding someone to step up and be a leader of that group after the graduation of two-time all star Jack Mills.

Nathan Cabral takes over as the feature tailback and OA head coach Mike Holland is confident the junior can get the job done. Holland says Cabral runs hard and is a tough player. Perron will also have the likes of Shane Kilkelly, Jake Erlich, and Evan Craig to work with as targets.

The heart of the defense will be at the linebacker position. Both Pacini, Murphy, and Darnele Ryan return after starting there last year and Holland will count on both senior captains to lead the way for the Tigers. Sam Stevens is back in the secondary at the safety position but OA will need some new faces to emerge alongside him.

“We’re looking forward to the start of the season,” Holland said. “We have a great group across the board. We have some experienced players back and some talented players competing for jobs.”

Taunton

2017 Record: 5-6
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Brad Sidwell

Key/Returning Players: Noah Leonard, Sr., QB; Brayden Merrill, Sr., WR/DB; Tryton Zavala, Sr., WR/DB; Wesner Charles, Sr., WR/DB; Christian Tourinho, Sr., OL/DL; Cam Correiro, Sr., OL/DL; Corey Pintabone, Sr., TE/DL; Ryan Williams, Sr., OL/LB; Jared Rockwood, Sr., TE/DE; Max Moitoso, Sr., RB/LB; Prince Brown, Sr., WR/DB; Mason Frank, Jr., OL/DL

Outlook:
Taunton started last season with a 3-0 record, one of the program’s best starts in years, but then lost five straight games, including a playoff game against BC High, the top seed in Div. 1 South. The Tigers turned it on again from that point, winning the final three games of the season, including an impressive win against Brockton, to finish with a winning record under second-year head coach Brad Sidwell.

Experience will be a key for the Tigers this season, as Taunton tries to build on that playoff appearance and the momentum from a strong closing stretch. Senior Noah Leonard will be the starting quarterback for the third straight year and is now fluent in Sidwell’s offensive system. Leonard will have familiar targets in senior wideouts Brayden Merrill, Tryton Zavala, and Wesner Charles, while junior Cam Carroca looks to step in as a feature running back and junior Javon Franklin is a new target in the passing game. On the line, Taunton returns plenty of size in 6-foot-3, 337-pound tackle Christian Tourinho and his fellow senior Cam Correiro. Senior Ryan Williams will be the center, while junior Mason Frank, listed at 6-foot-2 and 274 pounds, will be back to battle at the line of scrimmage.

Size and athleticism will be strengths for Taunton on the defensive side of the ball as well. Tourinho, Correiro, and Frank can bottle up opposing running games and will be joined on the line by seniors Corey Pintabone and John Rockwood. Williams will lead the linebacking corps along with classmates Max Moitoso and Kyle Cuoto. Senior Prince Brown will be back at corner and senior Sebastien Celestin looks to step into the safety position.

“Taunton football is progressing forward,” said Sidwell. “Like all teams, we’d like to gain some confidence early in the season and carry it on. The Kelley-Rex division is challenging with great programs, coaching staffs, and communities. We are happy to be a part of it and want to represent Taunton High well by competing at the high standard set by the other league members.”

Mansfield Beats Rival Franklin For First State Title

Mansfield boys basketball
Mansfield boys basketball players celebrate after winning the D1 State Championship. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Just when it looked like Mansfield would run away the state championship, Franklin stormed back with a big run and had a chance to make it a two-possession game.

And no one was surprised because that’s the never-give-up type of team that Franklin is.

But when Mansfield was able to weather the storm, keep its lead, and break the pressure to pull away in the final minutes, it didn’t come as a big surprise either, because that’s the team the Hornets have been this season.

And with that, Mansfield earned a hard-fought 67-54 win over Franklin to earn the D1 State Championship, the first in program history.

“We’d knew they would press and do whatever they needed to do to get back into the game, that’s who they are,” said Mansfield senior Sam Hyland (17 points, five rebounds, four assists). “We turned it over more than we should have and we didn’t take the best shots. But from there it was just about winning the final three minutes, then winning the final two minutes, and so on. It was just about focusing at the time at hand and outworking them. They hit some deep shots, I have to commend them for those, sometimes you have to live with it. But we did enough at the end.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Mansfield led by as much as 18 points, up 59-41 with five minutes to play in the game after Ryan Otto (four points, four rebounds) hit a deep two just before the shot clock expired.

But true to form, Franklin turned things around. Jalen Samuels (seven points, seven rebounds, four assists) hit a free throw and then took a charge to get some momentum back. Sophomore Chris Edgehill (18 points) hit in the lane and Paul Mahon (14 points) splashed in a three to get the game back to ten, 59-49 with four minutes to play.

Out of a timeout he Panthers’ Matt Elias (eight points) picked off a pass at midcourt, leading to another three from Edgehill and suddenly the Panthers trailed 59-52 with three minutes to go.

Franklin had three chances to close the gap further but Mansfield’s defense wouldn’t allow it. Mansfield forced three straight empty trips, and then in transition, Mansfield junior Damani Scottt (19 points, four rebounds) drew the defense in and dropped a pass off right under the hoop for an easy two from Otto.

The Panthers came up short on the other end again, and Mansfield went on to sink six free throws over the final 90 seconds to secure the win the D1 State Championship.

“I can’t really put it into words,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “I know the last time we were [in the state championship], the stage might have been too big. From the moment we got on the bus on Thursday, the kids were locked in. They’ve been locked in all season long. It’s been a great ride. We did great things in D1 South, we did great things in the EMass game, and we did great things tonight.”

While it looked like it may turn into a blowout in the fourth quarter, Vaughan knew that Franklin would go down swinging to the very end.

“That’s a very good team we just played,” Vaughan said of the Panthers. “We made some shots, we did some things we had to do but [Franklin] wasn’t underprepared, this wasn’t a lack of effort by Franklin. If we play this game 10 times, five go one way and five go the other. It comes down to the fact at some point in the second and third quarters, we made a few extra baskets.

“They weren’t going to go away, they weren’t going to roll over. They play hard, they compete, they do all the little things well. They were going to give us every last breath they have. Paul Mahon is one of the best players our league has seen in terms of his ability to change the game on both ends of the floor, especially defensively. He held Tyler [Boulter] (four points, seven rebounds) in check tonight plus scored points of his own. Edgehill is a special player, we still have to deal with him for two more years as a top player in the league. And Samuels is great too, and then they have great role players who step in a do a lot of things for them.”

Franklin coach CJ Neely had a similar outlook, noting that in the end, the Panthers knew it would come down to the small things. The Panthers finished 10-for-22 from the free throw line compared to 23-for-30 from the Hornets.

“As much as the hype went on all week, we talked about how at the end of the day, it’s going to come down to a couple of loose balls, rebounding and taking care of the ball, and making our free throws,” Neely said. “At the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to and they [made their free throws]. When you play in this rivalry, if you’re not making your free throws and they are, and they can go from four to an eight-point lead instead of keeping it close.

“When it starts to expand, you have to come out of what you want to do a little bit. And both teams have had to do that in all three games, we’ve gotten out of what we wanted to do because the lead extended. Then you’re doing something that you practice but it’s not your go-to or your identity. You’re trying to get back into it and you’re taking a lot of risks. Mansfield did a good job of extending their lead making their free throws, and we didn’t. At the end of the day, we didn’t do what we needed to do.”

While Mansfield had the key runs throughout the second and third quarters, they needed another one in the first quarter just to keep pace with the red-hot Panthers.

Holding a 10-9 advantage late in the first quarter behind a free throw from Samuels, the Panthers got hot from deep. Mahon took a feed from Edgehill and made a deep three, and then repeated the same sequence two plays later for a 16-9 lead with just over a minute to play.

Mansfield was able to answer over the final minute though. Hyland drove hard for two, Scott completed a traditional three-point play on a possession the Hornets had because of a steal from Khristian Conner, and then Scott came up with a late steal and went in alone for a thunderous one-handed slam to tie the game after eight minutes.

Franklin’s offense picked up where it left off as Elias drained a three to open the second quarter and junior Will Harvey joined in on the three-party with a corner trifecta for a 22-16 lead just over a minute into the second.

Hyland hit a three but Edgehill answered with a traditional three-point play to keep the Panther advantage at four. A free throw from Scott cut it to three, and two more from Justin Vine (five points) made it one after he went to the line after hauling in a defensive rebound because Mansfield was in the bonus.

With both Scott and Hockomock League MVP John McCoy (18 points, 11 rebounds) in foul trouble for the Hornets — and Samuels for the Panthers — Mansfield’s Hyland stepped up into the spotlight.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Hyland hit another trifecta, this one putting the Hornets up 27-25 with just under three minutes left in the half. Elias hit one free throw to make it a one-point game but Hyland got his layup to fall while fighting through a foul, completing the three-point play at the line. Two possessions later, Hyland once again attacked the basket, draw the foul, and got a kind bounce off the rim for another three-point play, plus a 33-26 lead.

Hyland finished with 12 of Mansfield’s 19 points in the second quarter and tied a career-high with 17 points overall on top of five rebounds and four assists.

“There wasn’t a specific game plan to get me going but we got into some foul trouble early so someone else had to step up and score points, it’s the Mansfield way,” Hyland said. “I had a couple open opportunities early that sometimes I’d pass up and wouldn’t take but fortunately I knocked them down. That gave me the confidence and then I started to get to the rim. I got a couple of bounces to go my way, a couple of calls and had a strong first half that kind of got the momentum back on our side. It ended up working out pretty nice.”

Franklin’s defense came out strong in the second half, holding Mansfield scoreless for nearly the first three minutes of the third. However, Mansfield’s defense was equal to the task and the Panthers only scored once, a layup from Mahon, during that stretch.

McCoy drained a three to give Franklin some life, pushing the lead to 38-28. Mansfield went up as much as 14 points in the frame (44-30) on a traditional three-point play from Scott. But Franklin closed with an 8-4 run with Samuels scoring the first four and Elias and Edgehill each contributing two.

Franklin nearly had a big stop to keep the deficit in single digits at the end of the quarter, but Hyland came flying in to steal an offensive board for an easy putback.

Mansfield opened the fourth with a set play to get two for McCoy, and then ran a set that resulted in a corner three for Vine. McCoy knocked down a pair of technical free throws to stretch it to 55-38.

Mahon answered for Franklin with a triple but two more from McCoy at the line, and a deep two from Otto gave Mansfield a commanding 59-41 lead, only for Franklin to charge back with its 11-0 run to make it a seven-point game.

“The resilience of this team….we’re never going to go away,” Neely said. “We’re not going to be the team that plays for the newspaper and loses by 10 or 11, we’re going to go out there and try and cut back into it as much and possible, and we’ll lose by 50 but we’ll do it trying to get back into it.

“We just couldn’t make a couple of those baskets there to get back into it. When Mansfield builds a lead like that, they do a great job of moving the ball and making you work, getting to the line and making their free throws.”

Vaughan agreed, stressing the importance of getting a big lead because he knew Franklin would continue to push back.

“This was a game we were fortunate to be up 18 so we could weather the storm and let the clock tick away,” Vaughan said. “But it comes down to what we’ve done all year. Otto steps up and has a huge basket, Vine hits the three in the corner. Different guys doing different things makes a huge difference for our team.”

While the Hornets secured their first state title win with a victory over rival Franklin, Vaughan noted his squad focused more on themselves and getting a win than about the rivalry.

“It wasn’t really about the opponent, it was just about winning this game,” Vaughan said. “If anything, there’s a part of me that knows how hard it is to get here, and I know what Franklin basketball is all about, and what CJ is all about and most of those kids I’ve coached at some point. They are great kids, great young men.

“There’s a part of me that has some sympathy. I wish there were times we weren’t in the same division and we didn’t face each other at some point. But we’ve also lost to Franklin back when they were in the South. It wasn’t about who we were playing, but it was about playing in this game and doing everything we can to win it.”

Franklin finishes the season 23-4 and had a second straight appearance in the D1 State Finals.

“The guys should be very proud of themselves,” Neely said of his team. “They are working hard year round, they are sacrificing a lot to put Franklin on the map and be one of the powers in the state. We’ve beaten a lot of good teams this season, we didn’t shy away from challenges. They should be very proud of themselves.

“These guys have brought Franklin to a place they had never been before and did it twice in a row. They have a lot to be proud of. Obviously, both teams wanted to win tonight, it’s two great teams that know a lot about each other. [Mansfield] was the better team tonight.”

Mansfield boys basketball picks up its 27th win of the season, finishing with just two losses.

“This win means a lot, I know a lot of players on [Franklin] and I’m pretty close friends with some of them,” McCoy said. “It’s definitely just amazing to beat Franklin in my last high school game.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.